October 14, 2010
City Workers' Load of 'Ill'-Gotten Gains
As the City Council considers a bill to mandate that all businesses provide paid sick time for workers, a study released yesterday shows that city employees called in sick an average of 8.5 days last year -- nearly triple the private-sector rate.
The city's Independent Budget Office report also found the number of sick days taken varied widely among city agencies.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics found private-sector workers took off an average of just over 3 days per year in 2008, said Kevin Miller, a senior research associate at the Institute for Women's Policy Research, an organization that has studied the city's paid-sick-leave proposal.
The IBO report found certain uniformed city workers, who get unlimited paid sick days, used the benefit more than those in other agencies.
For example, uniformed sanitation workers took an average of 11.5 paid sick days in 2008, while cops and firefighters cashed in on an average of 6.6 and 7 days respectively, IBO spokesman Doug Turetsky said.
"There are some other seeming anomalies in the use of paid sick days," Turetsky said.
"Maybe it has something to do with being a tax collector, but over at the Finance Department, workers used an average of nearly 11 paid sick days last year."
The number of paid sick days allowed varies by agency.
Proponents of the sick-leave proposal -- which would force companies with fewer than 20 employees to offer five paid sick days each year and larger businesses to provide nine -- insist workers would not abuse the policy.
"Business owners in San Francisco, the city with the most evidence and data on paid sick leave, report that paid sick leave is not a benefit that workers abuse, and even original opponents of paid sick leave there now acknowledge this fact," said Dan Morris, spokesman for the Drum Major Institute think tank.
Opponents argue it would destroy small businesses by forcing a mandate on companies that have individual policies that meet their specific needs.
They also say it would force small-business owners to lay off workers or discourage new hiring.
Mike Elmendorf, New York state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said most small businesses are opposed to the measure.
He also scoffed at the labor-backed Working Families Party, which helped organize a rally yesterday with a handful of businesses and liberal non-profit group Make the Road New York supporting the measure.
"We take exception to the picture they are attempting to paint of small business supporting mandated paid sick leave," Elmendorf said. "Indeed, the notion that the Working Families Party speaks for small-business owners on any issue is laughable.
"Maybe it's the latest round of smoke and mirrors in their effort to advance their anti-jobs, anti-economy agenda.
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